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  • January 10, 2014

Google’s deci­sion to acti­vate (and turn on by default) a “fea­ture” that allows any­one to send you email via Google Plus has sparked some con­tro­versy.

The prob­lem with the free email ser­vices most of us use is that vir­tu­ally all of them are offered pro­vided by com­pa­nies whose main inter­ests aren’t email. In other words, Google, Microsoft, and Apple all offer “free” email in order to get you into their ecosys­tems. Gmail exists so Google can sell your eye­balls to adver­tis­ers. Like all of Apple’s soft­ware, iCloud exists so Apple can con­trol every aspect of an iOS or Mac user’s expe­ri­ence.1 Hotmail and Outlook​.com (and what­ever other crap Microsoft is doing these days) exist so that Microsoft can keep more peo­ple reliant on Office and Windows (and what­ever other crap Microsoft is doing these days).

And that’s the thing: Their goal isn’t to cre­ate awe­some email that meets users’ needs. Sure, inso­far as cre­at­ing awe­some email helps get more peo­ple into their ecosys­tem, then I sup­pose cre­at­ing an awe­some email sys­tem is part of what they do. But don’t ever for­get that they have a big­ger goal in mind. When it comes right down to it, Google is obsessed with get­ting peo­ple into Google+, and they don’t even blink when pri­or­i­tiz­ing their needs (inte­gra­tion with their social net­work) over most users’ (the abil­ity to receive mes­sages only from those who’ve received my email address from me).2

As long as we use email that’s pro­vided by some­one who sees email as a means to achiev­ing their own (non-email related) goals, then this is going to keep happening.

We can bitch and com­plain all we want, but here’s the thing: As long as we use email that’s pro­vided by some­one who sees email as a means to achiev­ing their own (non-email related) goals, then this is going to keep hap­pen­ing. That’s the cost of “free” email.

I want a ser­vice that pro­vides email that’s clean, ele­gant, and easy-to-use. I want it to be pri­vate, secure, and safe. I want it to be standards-based, by which I mean I want it to work well with my exist­ing devices and sys­tems as well as with the ones that I don’t have or that don’t exist yet. And I want as much con­trol as pos­si­ble. I want con­trol over my pri­vacy set­tings, over the inter­face, over the imple­men­ta­tion of new fea­tures, over… everything.

And for that, I’d gladly pay a few bucks a month. Or even ten.


  1. Steve Jobs once said, “I’ve always wanted to own and con­trol the pri­mary tech­nol­ogy in every­thing we do.” Over the years, Apple loos­ened up a lit­tle as Jobs and Co. real­ized that they could gain more by giv­ing users a lit­tle bit more con­trol. But it’s pretty clear that the brain trust in Cupertino is still pretty com­mit­ted to the idea that the only way you can guar­an­tee users a prod­uct that “just works” is to main­tain as much con­trol as pos­si­ble over every aspect of both hard­ware and soft­ware (includ­ing cloud-based soft­ware and ser­vices). And since con­sumers seem to like prod­ucts that “just work” (Lord knows I do), Apple makes a lot of money as a result of this for­mula. (back to foot­note in text)

  2. Marco Arment says it best:

    Google’s lead­er­ship, threat­ened by the atten­tion and adver­tis­ing rel­e­vance of Facebook, is bet­ting the com­pany on Google+ at all costs.

    Google+ adop­tion and usage is not meet­ing their expec­ta­tions. Facebook con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate. It’s not work­ing. They’re desperate.

    Google will con­tinue to sell out and poten­tially ruin its other prop­er­ties to juice Google+ usage. These efforts haven’t worked very well: they juice the num­bers just enough that Google will keep doing this, yet will keep need­ing to do more.

    I don’t like Google+ very much, and I have no inter­est in being dragged into using it. Gmail belongs to Google, and if Google wants to build Gmail and Google+ into each other, then that’s Google’s pre­rog­a­tive. And find­ing a new email provider is my pre­rog­a­tive. And hon­estly: As long as Google’s behav­ior doesn’t have a notice­able effect on how many peo­ple use Gmail (and/or how much they use it), then they have no rea­son to stop. (back to foot­note in text)

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  • May 23, 2013

googlemapsnewLast night I got my invite to play with the new Google Maps (desk­top edi­tion).

Initial Reactions:

  • It’s kinda slow.
    (For the record: I’m using Safari on a dual-core i7 MacMini with dual SATAIII SSDs in a striped array and 16GB of mem­ory, and my inter­net band­width is above-average.)
  • The inter­face has a clean/simple yet beau­ti­ful design. The map itself dom­i­nates the entire screen, which I sup­pose is how it should be.
  • By min­i­miz­ing the pres­ence of the user inter­face, there are less but­tons and entry fields, which means it’s harder to use if you’re unfa­mil­iar. It makes me won­der if the Maps team hasn’t over-minimalized to the point where it isn’t obvi­ous to users how they should inter­act with the service.
  • Thankfully, the “tour” that intro­duces you to the new prod­uct does a decent job of induct­ing users into the new inter­face par­a­digm. (I’m not sure that’s a good thing. To add a twist to a Jobs-ism: If it needs a user inter­face “tour” then it’s not intu­itive enough. Not sure if that’s the case here, but it could be.)

All-in-all, it’s a step in the right direction.

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  • May 15, 2013

ATT Free Msg: Your data usage has reached 3GB this month. Using more than 3GB in future billing cycles will result in reduced speeds. You can use Wi-Fi to help avoid reduced speeds. Visit www​.att​.com/​d​a​t​ainfo or call 866–344-7584 for more info.

(received by text mes­sage from my wire­less carrier)

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  • May 15, 2013
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  • March 22, 2013

Nice use of video by a non-profit. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap to pro­duce, but prob­a­bly didn’t cost as much as you’d think.

Videoconference between Confirmation class and class­mate in London. Technology helps stu­dents cross oceans with­out even trying.

Smarter Stand is my friend Dotan’s project on Kickstarter. Simple, bril­liant, insanely useful.

Check it out.

Today, a new orga­ni­za­tion called B’nai Mitzvah Revolution announced itself to the world.

I’ve been priv­i­leged to serve as the webmaster/tech-guru on the project. Working with the team behind BMR — notably the co-directors and their col­leagues at HUC-JIR/RHSOE/ECE and the URJ — has been an amaz­ingly ful­fill­ing and insight­ful expe­ri­ence. I’m thank­ful to Isa for giv­ing me the opportunity.

Check the site out. I’m incred­i­bly proud of it (though, truth be told, a lot of the con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion and tweak­ing came from the entire team).

Viva la revolution!

For par­tic­i­pants in the iCen­ter pre­sen­ta­tion how-to that I taught today, I’ve uploaded two files:

• Extensive notes, as promised.
Presentation Primer — Notes & Sources.pdf

• My slides. (They’ll only make sense if you were there, naturally.)
Presentation Primer — Slides.pdf

Seth Godin:

Steve devoted his pro­fes­sional life to giv­ing us (you, me and a bil­lion other peo­ple) the most pow­er­ful device ever avail­able to an ordi­nary per­son. Everything in our world is dif­fer­ent because of the device you’re read­ing this on.

What are we going to do with it?

In my role as direc­tor of con­gre­ga­tional learn­ing at Temple Isaiah, I’ve been work­ing on ways to effec­tively use tech­nol­ogy to improve the learn­ing expe­ri­ence in the reli­gious school class­room. This post is the first in a series on ideas to make it happen.

What is it?

AppletvhandApple TV is a box you con­nect (via HDMI) to a tv or pro­jec­tor, and you log it onto your wire­less net­work. Once it’s con­nected, the Apple TV can play YouTube and Vimeo videos and stream Netflix con­tent. Even bet­ter: Using a tech­nol­ogy called AirPlay, it can play music, videos, and photo slideshows from any com­puter (Mac or PC, as long as it has iTunes installed) or any iOS Device (iPad, iTouch, iPhone) on the same net­work. Also, cer­tain iOS apps take advan­tage of the same tech­nol­ogy to have video from the device (like a news video from the CNN app, or a radio seg­ment from the NPR app) dis­play via the Apple TV up on the attached projector/television.

Read More

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  • April 3, 2011

...since before it was cool to be a Mac guy:

This is what we believe.
Technology alone is not enough.
Faster, thinner, lighter...
Those are all good things.
But when technology gets out of the way,
Everything becomes more delightful,
Even magical.
That's when you leap forward.
That's when you end up with something...
Like this.

That's an even better manifesto than this one.

Update: There's more.

If you ask a parent,
They might call it intuitive.
If you ask a musician,
They might call it inspiring.
To a doctor,
It's groundbreaking.
To a CEO,
It's powerful.
To a teacher,
It's the future.
If you ask a child,
She might call it magic.
And if you asked us...
We'd say it's just getting started.